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Rolf Harris dies aged 93 - details

Rolf Harris has died aged 93, his publicist has confirmed

rolf harris2
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
23 May 2023
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Rolf Harris has died aged 93, his publicist has confirmed. The former TV presenter passed away after a long illness. He had long been out of the public eye after being arrested following the Operation Yewtree police investigation with historical sexual assault allegations. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for 12 counts of indecent assault, and was released in 2017 after serving almost three years. 

His publicist Mark Borkowski told Sky News: "When the accusations sank in you began to feel cheated, that all those emotions you've had for an icon were false. He had a darker side to him that overshadowed all the fun and games he had broadcast for decades. 

"People will remember him as an entertainer, unique, [who] lived in the heart of the nation and was good at reinventing himself - but he will be remembered for his crimes."

Rolf Harris' convictions

Since being released from prison, one count of sexual assault in which Rolf allegedly assaulted an eight-year-old girl, was overturned. He applied for permission to appeal against his other convictions, but it was refused. He faced further indecent assault charges in 2016, with the trial taking place in 2017. He was acquitted of three charges. During a later retrial, the jury were unable to reach verdicts, and the prosecution confirmed that they wouldn't pursue a retrial.

In a statement at the time, he said: "I feel no sense of victory, only relief."

The 93-year-old lived in his mansion in Berkshire with his wife, Alwen Hughes, 91. The pair were married for 65 years and he is survived by one daughter, Bindi.

Rolf Harris with a camera
Rolf Harris with a camera

Rolf was recently reported as being "gravely ill". A neighbour, Portia Wooderson, explained to the Australian Daily Telegraph: "Only carers and nurses, who care for him 24 hours, come and go. I'm told he can't eat anymore." The author William Merritt, who wrote Rolf Harris: The Defence Team's Special Investigator Reveals the Truth Behind the Trials, also spoke of his illness, adding: "As far as his health goes, yes, he is very ill. But, Rolf keeps going. He's still around but he's not well at all."

Rolf Harris: Hiding in Plain Sight documentary

A recent two-part ITV documentary, which aired on Saturday, looked at the rise of Rolf Harris as a national treasure. Using archival footage and testimonials from those close to his trial, the series follows how Rolf managed to become a beloved public figure while sexually assaulting underage girls.

Rolf Harris rehearsing at the ABC studios for an Australian Day Concert with children ages between 6 and 12 from the Janice Breen Schools of Dance. January 15, 1982
Rolf Harris rehearsing at the ABC studios for an Australian Day Concert

The synopsis read: "Over a decade on from his arrest, Harris’ accusers including those who have waived their right to anonymity to tell the story of how they say his assaults impacted on them, and the pressures that finally forced them to come forward to testify against him in court."

It also looked at how Rolf groomed his daughter Bindi's childhood friend from the age of 13, and new allegations of abuse surfacing in Australia.

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Speaking about Rolf's fame  in the documentary, former BBC chairman Lord Grade said: "In those days, you didn't get a primetime Saturday night slot on BBC One unless you were able to draw millions and millions of people, and Rolf was an absolute sensation.

Rolf Harris' mugshot © ITV
Rolf Harris' mugshot

"He was a big asset for the BBC… Because the audience very quickly trusted him, they knew that if they committed an hour to watch Rolf Harris, they were going to be entertained."

One of his alleged victims, Karen Gardner, also bravely spoke about her experience with him. "For the first couple of hours, he was lovely," she said. "And you find yourself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, you know, that’s what Harris is like.’ He was paying me attention, he was saying how great I had been, and he hugged me, and that’s when it happened.

"And it was humiliating and degrading and awful and your blood turns to concrete. You can’t believe this is happening. And I have no doubt what was happening. My period was due, and my breasts were very tender, and I had no doubt what he’d done was deliberate."

More photos from the ITV documentary here...

Collect family picture show Dr Lin Berwick as a young woman © ITV
Collect family picture show Dr Lin Berwick as a young woman
Archive photo of Rolf Harris
Archive photo of Rolf Harris

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